Ever hear that women earn less money than men because “women don’t ask”? Catalyst research says that even when women use the same career-advancing strategies as men, they still advance less quickly and experience slower pay growth. The problem isn’t that women don’t ask—it’s that they don’t always know which tactics work. Below are some pro tips from Catalyst’s own HR Manager, Maighan A. Moody, on how to nail this tricky conversation.
Know your worth: Review the description of your current job or the one you would like to land. How many years of experience does it require? What education level is needed? Do you have or could you acquire any additional qualifications, like language skills or special certifications, which might make you a more attractive candidate for this position? Research what the going rates are for the job in question on sites like salary.com, payscale.com, glassdoor.com, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and job posting sites, and ask people you know in similar positions. Location, industry, company size, and experience levels can greatly impact the salary ranges so be sure to factor these in! Do not base your search on the job title alone; look at the position’s description and requirements to uncover the most reliable data.
Make a case: Once you’ve gathered some reliable data, compare how you measure up to what you’ve discovered. What puts you in the “plus” category in terms of asking for a pay raise? Do you have a skill or qualification that’s preferable but not required? Do you have prior industry experience that might set you apart from others? Are you currently performing above and beyond what’s expected of you in this role or at your level? Use these positives to your advantage in preparing your case. Be prepared to cite your research and explain in detail why you feel you deserve more.
Prepare for the worst but work toward the best. It’s important to enter a salary negotiation with the knowledge that “No” is a potential response. It’s easy to become so focused on the seemingly airtight case you’ve built that it becomes impossible to imagine your employer or future employer disagreeing. If you are negotiating for a new position, ask what the starting salary range is before giving your desired salary. Sometimes this isn’t possible but it is useful information if you can get it. If you’re offered the position verbally, use that opportunity to start negotiating the salary before the offer is presented in writing. If the offer comes in writing, respectfully ask if the proposed salary is up for negotiation and then present your case. If you’re currently employed or newly promoted, test the waters based on your company’s culture and don’t be afraid to ask! Look at the salary ranges within your company and estimate where you fall within that range. Do you think it’s fair (remember that what’s fair is sometimes different from what you want.) or do you think it should be higher, based on your research? If you think you deserve more, approach your manager or another higher-up and let him or her know how much you enjoy your job/working for the company/your recent promotion. Then mention your concern that your salary may not align with what others in your position are making and request an opportunity to discuss it further.
Be confident and respectful. Going into the conversation armed with supporting data should help to boost your confidence. If not, look into the mirror and tell yourself that if you are worth more, you deserve more! Practice with someone you trust who can help give you pointers on your delivery. Whether you want to land a new job or hold onto your current job, respect goes a long way. Demanding an increase in a confrontational way may cause an employer to push back harder or, worse, it may alter his or her entire perception of you. (*Note: Demand away if you have good reason to believe you’re facing pay discrimination.) Presenting data, expressing your enthusiasm for the position or the company, and approaching the negotiation as a conversation while expressing gratitude for your employer or prospective employer’s consideration will make you seem professional and pleasant.
Lastly, be patient. The person you’re negotiating with may not be able to give you an immediate answer. The company may be facing budget issues you’re not aware of that make it difficult to grant your request. Listen to your gut and raise the issue again if you feel you’re being blown off, but manage your expectations if you know it takes time to get an answer at your company. Remember: you’ll never know unless you ask!